European Soft Bigotry Selling Out Palestinian Human Rights
About four years ago I happened to be sitting in a threadbare pub in a northern English mill town on a dank winter evening when two middle-aged, middle class couples sat down at the next table. One of the women was evidently a teacher at the local high school and she was describing to her friends a wedding which she had recently attended. The bride was one of her pupils – a young woman whom she repeatedly described as “my little Palestinian girl”.
Enthusiastic and detailed descriptions of exotic dress, food and ceremony were eventually interrupted by the other woman in the party who somewhat hesitantly expressed discomfort with the fact that such a young girl had taken part in what was, according to the raconteuse, an arranged marriage. Flicking the ends of her fuchsia pink and silver tasselled ethnic-style scarf impatiently, the teacher silenced her friend with the standard debate-killing, politically-correct slogan of last resort employed so often by those afflicted by normative relativism: “But that’s part of their culture!”
Earlier this month twenty-six Europeans of note, including Javier Solana, Mary Robinson, Helmut Schmidt and other former heads of state and dignitaries, sent a letter to European Union capitals and institutions demanding, amongst other things, that EU Foreign Ministers state as doctrine that the EU "Will not recognize any changes to the June 1967 boundaries, and clarify that a Palestinian state should be in sovereign control over territory equivalent to 100 percent of the territory occupied in 1967, including its capital in East Jerusalem." The letter also specifies a time limit:
“It also asks ministers to set an ultimatum of April 2011 for Israel to fall into line or see the Union seek an end to the existing US-led peace talks in favour of a UN solution.”
Days later, European Union Foreign Ministers expressed their "readiness, when appropriate, to recognize a Palestinian state"; a move which was swiftly followed by a request from leaders of the Palestinian National Authority for a number of individual countries within the EU, as well as the EU envoy to the peace process, to join Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, the Arab world and some African nations in recognizing a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood without a peace agreement.
Of course the Palestinians – and the world – have already been there and done that. Yasser Arafat also made a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood from Algiers in 1988 which was supported by the UN General Assembly and some 93 countries. Then too, the world apparently found it less challenging to busy itself with issues of maps and borders rather than concerns about what manner of Palestinian State they were in the process of creating. The results of that short-sightedness are painfully apparent to anyone who is concerned about the ever deteriorating situation of the human rights of women, gays and minorities in areas already administrated by Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.
Ironically, the same European Union which appears to be impatient to wrap up the whole peace process as quickly as possible by concentrating purely upon issues of land and borders, has entirely different demands and expectations from countries wishing to join its own exclusive club. When a state becomes a candidate for membership of the European Union it is obliged to comply with the criteria set down in the Copenhagen Summit of 1993. These criteria include political conditions such as democracy, the rule of law, human rights, protection of minorities, a free press and free trades unions as well as the economic condition of a functioning market economy. The standards set down within the EU’s accession criteria are, one concludes, those which Europeans wish to uphold within their own backyard; these are the EU’s aspirations for its own people.
It appears, however, that just like the lady with the glittery pink scarf - who one doubts very much would be happy for her own daughter to have her education curtailed by an arranged marriage - some Europeans do not appear to find natural the idea that Palestinians are entitled to live under the same types of laws or enjoy the same kinds of freedoms as Europeans do. Neither do they appear to appreciate that peace will stand a much better chance of lasting if it is made by two sides which run their societies on the basis of acknowledgement of, and respect for, universal human rights.
If European Union officials really want to help bring about peace between Israel and the Palestinians they need firstly to rid themselves of the politically correct soft bigotry of low expectations which not only enables them to consistently turn their backs upon the gay men being persecuted and killed at the hands of the Palestinian Authority and the women being steadily stripped of their rights under the Hamas regime, but which also apparently permits them to positively entertain the prospect of aiding in the perpetuity of the current miserable situation by granting international approval and recognition to a weak, corrupt and unrepresentative regime in the West Bank and an oppressive Islamist dictatorship in Gaza.
We know from the Copenhagen criteria that these Europeans of note would not condemn their own peoples to such a fate; why do they believe that the Palestinian people deserve anything less than that to which they believe themselves to be entitled?
Hadar Sela is a Contributing Writer for The Propagandist